Arguing both sides of an issue transcends mere intellectual exercise; it cultivates empathy and fosters a deeper appreciation for the nuances inherent in any political or social matter.
Unless you missed it, WEALTH is different than INCOME.
The goal here is not to wade into the debate about taxation, but to simply call attention to words and statistics. Even though Elizabeth Warren, President Biden, and others are promoting a wealth tax (clear enough), most Americans don’t seem to completely grasp the nuance.
Two BIG spins are in play below:
In both instances, a small tweak or reframe of the discussion can mislead one’s conclusions (oh so subtly).
Here are Sen. Warren’s words:
Let’s be clear where we stand on taxes. The 99% in America last year paid about 7.2% of their total wealth in taxes. That top one tenth of one percent where Elon Musk lives, they paid about 3.2%. That’s less than half as much. If Elon Musk were paying at the same rate as the rest of Americans on their wealth, then Elon Musk and his kind could be funding a huge part of what we need in America.” Sen. Warren: Elon Musk is riding on the backs of hard-working families (cnn.com)
It is important to notice that the word ‘wealth’ is distinct from the word ‘income’. Wealth is your totality of net assets (what you own less what you owe), while income in the money you’ve brought in during a year. A wealth tax taxes all you’ve got, while income tax taxes what you’ve added.
The spin here is based on the way the public has understood taxation for generations. When Sen. Warren says that the 1% are paying almost ½ of what the 99% is paying, she is attempting to spin our understanding of income tax into an outrage. It’s not that she’s necessarily wrong (but it would be nice to see her math), it’s that she is talking like the wealthy are cheating the tax code by not paying their taxes.
So, if the sentence is changed to ‘income’, then it would read like this: “Let’s be clear where we stand on taxes. The 99% in America last year paid about 7.2% of their total income in taxes.” Of course, that would be patently false as the following displays.
In actual income taxes paid, the heaviest contribution is made by the wealthiest income earners. In the math of taxes paid compared to income, the lower 50% only pays 3% of all taxes; which means the top 1% is paying of 700% more then the poorest families and a significantly greater percentage than any other group (assuming the math is correct).
There’s more to the spin, but the key lesson is to realize that numbers can often be twisted to say what you want, and even more readily when the words are switch to play against the common understanding.
A wealth tax is different than an income tax, and in principle simply asks us to consider how much we want the federal government to slow our own accumulation of wealth and redistribute it in the a variety of causes (Warren is concerned with multiple universal solutions like universal healthcare, education, etc.
Now you know. Probably smart to keep the following quotes in mind:
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”
-Lewis Carroll: Through the Looking-Glass
There are three kinds of falsehoods, lies, damned lies and statistics.
-Arthur James Balfour
Spin-Check: Claims About Vaccine Passports (Joe Biden, Chip Roy, & CNN)
SPIN: Urban Dictionary: To present an incident in a particularly slanted or biased manner.
CNN has fact-checked Chip Roy’s claim that “President Biden and his administration and Democrats are trying to institute a vaccine passport.” The fact-check concludes,
CNN Vaccine Passport Facts First: This is misleading and needs context. Only New York City has announced a vaccine passport requirement and the White House has said repeatedly there won’t be a federally mandated vaccine passport.
CNN Spin Summary: Chip Roy makes a claim that (1) Biden, (2) his administration, and (3) Democrats are trying to institute a vaccine passport. CNN makes a claim that this is false because the White House says it won’t happen and CNN can find no evidence.
1. The spin here is that a claim (Chip Roy) is defeated by another claim (The White House). Claims don’t prove other claims wrong. Why does the White House’s denial of something serve as ‘proof’ that those who disagree are wrong? Claims don’t conquer claims, they are ‘she-said / he-said’ situations. We could as easily say, “The White House says repeatedly that there won’t be a federally mandated vaccine passport, but Congressman Roy insists that the White House is working with Democrats to make it happen, therefore the White House is misleading.”
2. The spin here is that while Roy mentioned a vaccine passport, CNN changed the term to ‘federally mandated’ passport. The states and local governments could individually require a passport, which seems to be realized by CNN, since it notes New Your City has one.
3. The spin here is that Congressman Roy mentioned that Democrats and Biden are trying to institute a vaccine passport as a setup for a joke. The point was to tell the young conservative group that they were in the right state if they get stuck saying, “But the good news is, “Roy added, “if they do so while you’re here — since each and every one of you are freedom lovers– you’ll get stuck in Texas. You get to stay here instead of having to use a vaccine passport.” Roy was using a common point of discussion and contention to simply make a group of young adults feel welcomed to Texas.
4. The spin here is that “Amid confusion over mask mandates, booster shots, and new guidance for those vaccinated… Republicans have thrown fuel on the fire.” The argument is that since there is already a debate going on about a number of covid issues, the Republicans are bad guys to add anything else to the discussion. Of course, what is true is at issue, not whether or not it adds fuel to the fire.
5. The spin here is that Roy’s ‘fuel on the fire’ is an opinion about an implication, but without evidence. CNN says, “But Roy’s comments implied that Biden was working on a way to limit someone’s ability to freely move around the US and CNN has seen no evidence to back up that assertion.” When you take an implication and argue against it, you are inventing a straw man. For example, one could say, “Biden’s support of New York City implies he is for ‘passports’, therefore Biden is lying when he says he is not for them.”
6. The spin here is that Chip Roy’s entrance into the debate is a new development and Roy is an addon contributor to the discussion. CNN said, “Last week the Republican National Committee falsely claimed the Surgeon General recommended people wear masks while at home with their kids. Now, Rep. Chip Roy from Texas is claiming that President Joe Biden is working to institute a vaccine passport across the country.” First, there is a guilt-by-association spin; Republicans where wrong last week about one thing, so a Republican is wrong this week about another thing. Second, there is not a “Now, Rep. Chip Roy…”, but an ongoing debate. In fact, Roy is a co-sponsor of the April 2021 No Vaccine Passport Act (Biggs) https://biggs.house.gov/media/press-releases/rep-biggs-introduces-no-vaccine-passport-act
7. The spin here is that Biden supports New York City’s vaccination requirement (functional localized passport) while denying working on a federally mandated vaccine passport. Asking a discrepancy question exposes this, “Mr. President, given that you support New York City’s requirement of proof of vaccination, why are you not working on a federally mandated vaccine passport?
Of course, the vaccine passport discussion has been in the air for some time, and will continue. US News said Biden was working on a vaccine passport initiative back in March of 2021.
Chip Roy made a claim as the setup to a joke. CNN spun it as misleading and without evidence, proved by the White House denial.
Anecdotal Evidence: “The Mitigation Worked to Save Lives”
During the Coronavirus Crisis of 2020, there has been a lot of bantering about concerning various treatments and protocols; never mind the full reversals, like don’t wear a mask and do wear a mask. The argument from anecdote is thrown around like baking soda on a grease fire. Arguments like these are often really about spin; when the anecdotes (stories) serve you, you use them. When they hurt you, you diss them.
President Trump specifically stated that he hoped hydroxychloroquine
would be a game changer. Critics attacked Trump as relying on anecdotal evidence
for his ‘highly ‘touted’ cure. They further went on to attack hydroxychloroquine
as dangerous, based on nothing less than their own anecdotal evidence of what
they’ve heard from some doctors. In an article about the lack of hard evidence,
the authors do accurately quote Trump:
“I may take it,” Trump said on Saturday, referring to hydroxychloroquine,
though he has twice tested negative for coronavirus, according to the White
House. “We’re just hearing really positive stories, and we’re continuing to
collect the data.” https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/04/trumps-lies-about-coronavirus/608647/
While this is called a ‘lie’, it really is simply a common way humans discuss
and discover the truth of things. Some studies have indicated that hydroxy doesn’t
work against the virus, but those are focused on hospital admissions. We would
need studies that show an early prescription at the onset of symptoms (with
zinc and azithromycin) doesn’t work.
While this is called a ‘lie’, it really is simply a common way humans discuss and discover the truth of things.
Anecdote: A limited selection of examples which support or refute an
argument, but which are not supported by scientific or statistical analysis.https://www.definitions.net/definition/anecdotal+evidence
Trump’s comment has both anecdote and data in it. He is
saying we are hearing positive stories, but that we need to keep collecting
data. There is nothing wrong with anecdotes, but they neither prove nor
disprove anything. There is no lie in anecdotal proof, since it could turn out
to be true.
In a hard-scientific world, we really think of anecdotes as hints or hypotheses,
and you’ll see it again if the virus gets to a truly manageable level.
MITIGATION AS ANECDOTAL
Dr. Fauci, and others, state that mitigation is working and will “do the trick for us.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ioYZ9FgkftE
However, that too is speculative. It makes sense, as does anecdotal evidence. However, we can’t know without a real comparative study. We would have to have the ‘curve’ studied with partial mitigation and no mitigation. Sweden is the curious example that seems to have a similar curve to the rest of the countries, but without the level of lockdown commonly employed. This kind of spin shadows a logical fallacy called post hoc ergo propter hoc (after this, therefore resulting from it: used to indicate that a causal relationship has erroneously been assumed from a merely sequential one). We mitigated, so lives were saved. Well, yes, maybe, but were they saved short-term or long-term? The simple fact is that we do not know. We do not currently have the scientific data to prove it. So, when unvalidated anecdotal evidence doesn’t serve, it’s bad. When other unvalidated evidence serves, it’s good. When trends on a chart serve, they are good. When trends don’t serve, they are bad.
Karl Popper gave us a better standard with his principle of falsifiability (if you can’t prove it’s wrong, you can’t prove it’s right) https://youtu.be/wf-sGqBsWv4
In the world of news and crisis, however, all you need to know is that everyone is talking about hope and predictions…which get’s tangled in the web of spin.When they say that anecdotal evidence suggest something, you can simply say, “Maybe.” When the ‘experts’ come out and insist that the mitigation worked, you can also simply say, “Maybe.” Definitive proof is another question entirely.Hope and hypotheses are not lies, but they also aren’t conclusive. Don’t get tricked, always spin-check.
Spin-check is about preparing readers to discern the truth, which isn’t easy in a spin-happy world. PRESIDENT TRUMP ALWAYS LIES. Accusing people of lying is the quickest spin of all that groups embrace, and it misdirects us from seeing the truth of things.
Plenty of people out there think it’s true that President Trump always lies, but clearly this is suspicious unless they change the meaning of the words ‘lie’ or ‘always’. The energy to overreact seems to be without boundaries. Here’s a recent example:
Well, this looks obvious! He says he signed the CHOICE Act, but we know he really didn’t. Ha! Liar! A few comments that immediately follow this post found at #trumplies show the instant conclusion:
The Trump tweet is explained by considering Trump a deliberate liar on one extreme, and a self-deceived (delusional?) liar at the other extreme. Apparently, “We know Trump is lying, we just don’t know exactly why!”
But is he lying? The simplest thing to do to avoid getting sucked into this spin-cycle is to begin with the assumption the other person might not be lying, that something else may be in play. This mindset will lead you to FIRST UNDERSTAND…and, of course, you can still condemn the sorry liar later.
We always try to ask, “Would Trump (or ________) really knowingly make such an outlandish statement that is blatantly false?” The answer is always, “Not likely.” So, we need to look at what the President actually said and compare it to what is claimed he said.
They say he said:
I signed the Choice Act, not Obama.
Last year I signed legislation that gives our Veterans CHOICE, through private providers, and at urgent care facilities! Today we fully funded this $10 billion a year effort that gets our brave Veterans care quickly, and close to home.
Now, first we can notice that he did not say he signed the Choice Act, but rather he signed ‘legislation’. From here we’d simple ask, “Did he sign legislation that does this?” With a little googling we can find that he did sign legislation:
So, he did sign legislation (referring to either story above?). He extended the Choice Act (and improved it, apparently). Is he taking credit for something he didn’t do? Is he misleading everyone? Is he a jerk anyway? Well, all of these are clearly important questions. And, of course, congress passed the law, so they can get credit too.
One might still want to call the President a liar anyway, but the legitimacy of the claim in this case needs some explaining…or…perhaps an admission that it’s just not true in this rabid instance. The overreaction to whatever Trump says makes both spinning and looking stupid rather easy.
As we like to note, if Trump were Shakespeare and said, “But soft, what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun,” wouldn’t he be open to the accusation of being a liar? Juliet is not the sun; it’s a gaseous ball of explosions about 93 million miles from earth; Shakespeare/Trump is a liar.
Of course, always make sure you get the actual quote which is declared the ‘lie’. Next, to avoid getting caught up in group-spins like these, simply ask, “What did they mean?” and “Is it true?” In this way you’ll be fair-minded and call a liar a liar with accuracy, rather than getting egg on your face like those who buy spin in Costco-sized containers.